And then on my final, final night in Moscow had the honour of being invited to the most lovely dinner with my neighbours. Well in fact, at this very last moment, they were trying to match-make me with A who was widowed some years ago, whom I have often met in the lift with his dog, and who speaks no English. Turns out he is an artist, trained in the Soviet fashion on repetitive (and suitably heroic) drawings of Lenin, and then copying from Great Works - one of his Fragonards has pride of place on the wall. Also neo-classical frescos on his ceiling, and a mural in the kitchen, topped off with some wonderful pre-revolutionary furniture and an artfully arranged branch and curtain combination which was probably the height of interior fashion for the cultural elite in the 1970s (or 50s).
The meal was the usual leisurely and pleasurable consumption of caviar, salami, cheese, black bread, fruit, compote and (of course, lots of) alcohol. Much toasting, mainly to the future of A and me together, and to good times had in Moscow. And to me coming back and staying with A. Etc. Which was followed by him getting out his guitar and serenading me with gypsy and hooligan* songs. And some dancing. Fabulous.
For a sample, on balalaikas, with a quartet in full evening dress go here.
One of many wonderful 'last meals' before I leave, this one with L and friends, at Ragout. She is the most uber-trendy person I know (she knows all the best London cocktail bars) so as you can guess, the food at this place was gorgeous.
A day out to Skolkovo Innovation Centre - Moscow's answer to Silicon Valley. Really only the landmark building exists so far (by David Adjaye Architects), the Moscow School of Management, which is a weird cross between an airport and a conference centre. We were shown a surreal promo video, which not only offered some of Russia's 'crooks and thieves'* as examples for MBA students to follow, but also had interviews with past students on field trips saying such things as 'the chinese have slitty eyes'.
I am an accidental Muscovite, swopping a lifetime in London for Russia. Join me in the confusions, pleasures and - hopefully - moments of insight that going somewhere else can provoke.
and the follow-up...
If you have enjoyed this blog, then come and visit me elsewhere - now I have found myself accidentally in Sydney, Australia. This is a city that seems very straightforward on the surface - so I hope to look behind appearances.